What is Oral History?

“Oral history is a picture of the past in people’s own words”. Beth Robertson, The Oral History Handbook, 2000

Oral tradition, stories and memories have been passed down from generation to generation for centuries. However the modern definition of oral history refers to tape recorded interviews. The term was coined in the 1940s by Columbia University historian Allan Nevins.

  1. Oral history interviews are recorded using question and answer format.
  2. A well-prepared interviewer has knowledge of the subject to be discussed gained through background research.
  3. The person interviewed shares memories from personal participation or knowledge of the subject.
  4. Potential subjects for oral history interviews are boundless, however most have historical interest and value.
  5. Practitioners of oral history are encouraged to make the results of their interviews available to other researchers.

 

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